Color, 1970, 87m.
Directed by Jess Franco
Starring Maria Rohm, Marie Liljedahl, Jack Taylor, Christopher Lee, Paul Muller
Blue Underground (UHD, Blu-ray & DVD) (US R0 4K/HD/NTSC), Mediumrare (DVD) (UK R2 PAL), Umbrella (DVD) (Australia R0 PAL) / WS (2.35:1) (16:9)

EugenieFew other films by EugenieJess Franco enjoyed the long-running mystique that surrounded this 1970 modernization of the Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Boudoir, which opened as a softcore bondage film in 1970 complete with a (soft) X rating in the United States. After that it disappeared for decades, with a few stills and occasional tantalizing write ups (most notably in The Psychotronic Encyclopedia of Film) frustrating fans of weird cinema yearning to see what appeared to be a lost film. Salvation eventually arrived in 2002 when Blue Underground unveiled the film as one of their earlier DVD offerings in a full-fledged special edition, finally providing what turned out to be a key piece of Franco cinema. Thirteen years later, the label revisited the title as a deluxe Blu-ray and DVD edition, adding even more to the film's peculiar but haunting visual luster.

Marie Liljedahl, the gorgeous star of Euro erotic films like Inga, Dorian Gray, and Ann and Eve, stars as the title character, a naive teenaged girl who defies her mother and takes off for a weekend with libertine jet setter Madame Saint Ange (Rohm) who's already cast a sexual spell over Eugenie's father (Muller). So it's off to a remote island for a few days with the scheming older woman and her withdrawn stepbrother, Mirvel (Taylor), where the girl is slowly initiated into a realm of debauchery that soon takes a very dark turn.

Though EugenieFranco had previously tackled de Sade as a period piece with Justine, this film finds him really tackling the author with gusto for the first time Eugeniewith a keen understanding of the necessary tone of jaded amorality. The savvy casting of Christopher Lee (who claimed he had no idea how sexual the finished film would be) is a major asset as well; though he has limited screen time, he's an imposing presence as Dolmance, a maestro of the perverse seen reading passages of de Sade during ritualistic sex acts before arriving on the island with a horde of fellow initiates for a key role in the finale. The highly extreme content of the original novel was understandably softened considerably (with Eugenie's mother, the most abused character, relegated here to a very minor role), but the tone is dead on as the story swirls down into a psychedelic orgy of sex and murder with Liljedahl at the center as a more innocent, tragic variation of de Sade's anti-heroine. This time out producer and screenwriter Harry Allan Towers adopts his occasional pseudonym "Peter Welbeck," though he'd kept his real name on Justine and his other collaborations with Franco (99 Women, Venus in Furs, Count Dracula, etc.) Perhaps more importantly, this also meant that Rohm (Towers' girlfriend at the time) was cast in one of the main roles and turned in a terrific performance, and Justine composer Bruno Nicolai was brought back here to contribute one of his best scores, a wild mixture of druggy party music, breathy Edda Del Orso vocalizing, and tropical lounge. In fact, the soundtrack played a large part in keeping the film's reputation alive during its absence with vinyl and CD editions piquing interest thanks to its standout tracks, most notably the now legendary "De EugenieSade 70" (which Eugeniealso served as the film's alternate title in some territories).

The look of Eugenie has been confounding viewers since its home video debut, adding some fuel to the fire for those who consider Franco a sloppy technician. Several shots dotted throughout the film are obviously out of focus, reportedly due to a cameraman's negligence. Regardless of whether that's true, the tactic works in a handful of shots that drift in and out of focus, not exactly inappropriate for the kinky, voluptuous dreaminess of the film itself. In any case it's also a stylish and often striking film with Franco's trademark seaside landscapes and sparing but effective use of color gels creating a enjoyable candy dish of visual goodies. That look is served well by Blue Underground's initial 2015 Blu-ray (with an updated DVD included as well along with a third disc, the CD soundtrack, which mirrors the contents of the first disc in the long-discontinued Digitmovies double-disc release). The scenes with heavy red filters benefit especially well with a great increase in detail and overall resolution freed from the constraints of NTSC smudging, while the daylight exteriors now look pristine and pin sharp. The English audio track is presented in DTS-HD mono, sounding excellent, with optional English SDH, French, or Spanish subtitles. Carried over from the prior DVD is the theatrical trailer (which is quite good) and a 17m32s featurette, "Perversion Stories," featuring recollections from Franco and Liljedahl (in a rare on-screen appearance), and more briefly, Lee and Towers. Franco and Lee are the best raconteurs, not Eugeniesurprisingly, but all have some fun stories about the shoot and its marketing as a sex film, which made sense at the Eugenietime but doesn't really capture the full scope of what's in store here. New to the release is an improved HD stills and poster gallery and the participation of Stephen Thrower, whose writing on the film in his essential book, Murderous Passions: The Delirious Cinema of Jesús Franco, has been adapted into new liner notes (replacing the ones by Tim Lucas for the original DVD). Thrower also appears for a new 18m9s featurette in which he runs through this portion of the Towers/Franco era, Franco's trajectory of de Sade adaptations, and the necessary departures from the source material that resulted in one of Franco's first full-strength sado-erotic masterpieces.

In 2023, Blue Underground added Eugenie to its slate of 4K upgrades as a two-disc edition featuring a UHD and a remastered Blu-ray, with a new restoration from the camera negative. The already excellent prior release is improved on here with more robust skin tones, deeper blacks, and increased detail (even in the blurry shots), and the DTS-HD MA 1.0 mono English and French tracks sound great (with optional English SDH, French, and Spanish Eugeniesubtitles). The slipcase and title card for the film itself now tout it as Marquis de Sade's Philosophy in the Boudoir Eugeniewhile the actual disc sleeve and menus still call it Eugenie... The Story of Her Journey into Perversion, so you could find it under either title depending on the retailer. Both formats feature the trailer (now tweaked to feature the Philosophy title) and a new audio commentary by Troy Howarth and yours truly, so no evaluation of it here but hopefully you'll enjoy. Both of the preexisting featurettes are ported over on the Blu-ray, but you also get the new "Jack Taylor in the Francoverse" (24m43s) with the busy actor chatting about the origin of his screen name, his earlier Franco work including the multilingual Succubus, the Towers-Franco glory days, and the director's mix-and-match approach to shooting multiple films at once with an affinity for exotic cabaret scenes. An expanded gallery of international posters and stills is also included.

2023 Blu-ray

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2015 Blu-ray

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Updated review on February 3, 2023.